Storytelling Evolved: The New Gaming Trend
“Once upon a time”: This phrase has started countless stories and events, and now it is starting the new wave of stories being told through a brand-new medium of storytelling, video games.
For the longest time, stories have been reserved for paper and film, and early video games did not focus on developing complex structures like climaxes and plot twists. With such reservations in video games, players were not able to be invested or involved in the games’ stories.
However, with today’s up-and-coming video games, all of that is changing.
Some may be skeptical as to how a story could become interactive, and rightly so — it’s strange to think how a story that traditionally features a hero who somehow saves the world against inconceivable odds could be affected by our actions.
While that central hero-saves-the-world theme is still present in many stories, the way one gets to the endgame is left up to whoever writes the story. Video games today let the player dictate the story, depending on the type of video game the player is playing.
Interactivity in stories can be dated back to the Choose Your Own Adventure books that became popular in the 1980s, according to cyoa.com. These books featured many places around the world and even some fantasy places where the reader could decide what happened along the storyline. Since the age of Choose Your Own Adventure books, interactivity in storytelling has made groundbreaking strides in the form of video games.
Some people who have been playing games since they were little can remember the classic stories of Super Mario and Crash Bandicoot. The stories in these games, while base in today’s terms, were up to date at the time they were released.
In “Super Mario Bros.,” the player takes on the role of plumber Mario on his quest to save his girl Peach from the big bad turtle Bowser. This story, while completely linear, captivated many people of its time and is a classic representation of old-fashioned gaming and storytelling.
Since Mario, many new designers and producers have come into play in the video game world, and all of them are trying to create even more entertaining and engrossing stories for gamers to experience. One such extraordinary example of in-depth storytelling and interactive fiction is the recent hit game “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.”
The game is set in a fantasy world of knights and dragons. The player takes on the role of a prisoner of the empire, which is the local law enforcement in Skyrim. From here, the way the story unfolds is up to the player.
The interactivity in this game is astounding. The hero can participate in all of the happenings around the world of Skyrim, and this is where the majority of interactivity comes from. The greatest thing to happen to stories and video games are side objectives and events.
These objectives and events occur entirely outside the main story and have no real bearing on the central storyline but serve to enrich the gameplay and to entertain the player along the main storyline.
It is not required for the player to participate in these side events, and it is up to the player what the hero in the story experiences and what that player experiences through said hero. This game is one of the most recent examples of storytelling becoming interactive through video games, and from here the future of video games is projected to be hinged on storytelling.
Sales of video games can reflect the public opinion of stories in video games. One such example is the comparison of launch sales of two big-time video games based in the telling of an epic story, “Mass Effect 3” and “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.” The reported sales for Skyrim were 3.4 million units in 48 hours, according to VG Chartz, whereas “Mass Effect 3” only sold 1.3 million units in the entire launch month, according to joystiq.com.
The cause for the drastic difference in sales between the two RPG moguls of the gaming world can be attributed to poor storytelling on the part of the “Mass Effect 3” developing team. The ending of “Mass Effect 3” was poorly received by the community. The game was also less popular because of its lack of interactivity.
“The games I like to play are very involved and really captivate me in the story they are telling,” said Torri Bradshaw, junior.
When asked to compare the stories of “Mass Effect 3” and Skyrim, Bradshaw said, “I played both and, after completing ‘Mass Effect 3,’ was thoroughly disappointed, but Skyrim really held my interest.”
Video games are quickly becoming the next story medium in modern-day society.
“Games have the greatest level of immersion of any form of media,” said Jeremiah Depew, vice president of the Razorback Gaming RSO. “You’re not just viewing them on a screen or reading about them; you are that character. That’s what sets (video games) apart.”